Sites & cities that bear the name of Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo

Today in : United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
First trace of activity : ca. 30th century B.C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 7th century C.E

Description : Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, England, is the site of two early medieval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th centuries. Archaeologists have been excavating the area since 1938. One cemetery had an undisturbed ship burial with a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts. Most of these objects are now held by the British Museum. Scholars believe Rædwald of East Anglia is the most likely person to have been buried in the ship. The site is important in establishing the history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia and the early Anglo-Saxon period and has illuminated a period that lacks historical documentation. The site was first excavated by Basil Brown under the auspices of the landowner Edith Pretty, but when its significance became apparent, national experts took over. During the 1960s and 1980s, the wider area was explored by archaeologists and many other individual burials were revealed. The spectacular artefacts comprise what is considered the greatest treasure ever discovered in the UK. Those found in the burial chamber include a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, a shield and sword, a lyre, and silver plate from the Byzantine Empire. The ship burial has prompted comparisons with the world of the Old English poem Beowulf. The poem is partly set in Götaland in southern Sweden, which has archaeological parallels to some of the finds from Sutton Hoo. The cemeteries are located close to the River Deben estuary and other archaeological sites. They appear as a group of approximately 20 earthen mounds that rise slightly above the horizon of the hill-spur when viewed from the opposite bank. The newer burial ground is situated on a second hill-spur about 500 metres (1,600 ft) upstream of the first. It was discovered and partially explored in 2000 during preliminary work for the construction of an Exhibition Hall for tourists. This site also has burials, but the tops of their mounds had been obliterated by later agricultural activity. Neolithic and Bronze Age There is evidence that Sutton Hoo was occupied during the Neolithic period, c. 3000 BCE, when woodland in the area was cleared by agriculturalists. They dug small pits that contained flint-tempered earthenware pots. Several pits were near to hollows where large trees had been uprooted: the Neolithic farmers may have associated the hollows with the pots. During the Bronze Age, when agricultural communities living in Britain were adopting the newly introduced technology of metalworking, timber-framed roundhouses were built at Sutton Hoo, with wattle and daub walling and thatched roofs. The best surviving example contained a ring of upright posts, up to 30 centimetres (12 in) in diameter, with one pair suggesting an entrance to the south-east. In the central hearth, a faience bead had been dropped. The farmers who dwelt in this house used decorated Beaker-style pottery, cultivated barley, oats, and wheat, and collected hazelnuts. They dug ditches that marked the surrounding grassland into sections, indicating land ownership. The acidic sandy soil eventually became leached and infertile, and it was likely that for this reason, the settlement was eventually abandoned, to be replaced in the Middle Bronze Age (1500-1000 BCE) by sheep or cattle, which were enclosed by wooden stakes. Iron Age and Romano-British period During the Iron Age, iron replaced copper and bronze as the dominant form of metal used in the British Isles. In the Middle Iron Age (around 500 BCE), people living in the Sutton Hoo area began to grow crops again, dividing the land into small enclosures now known as Celtic fields. The use of narrow trenches implies grape cultivation, whilst in other places, small pockets of dark soil indicate that big cabbages may have been grown. This cultivation continued into the Romano-British period, from 43 to around 410. Life for the Britons remained unaffected by the arrival of the Romans. Several artefacts from the period, including a few fragments of pottery and a discarded fibula, have been found. As the peoples of Western Europe were encouraged by the Empire to maximise the use of land for growing crops, the area around Sutton Hoo suffered degradation and soil loss. It was eventually abandoned and became overgrown.

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